Two litters of puppies began a journey from the Mayfield-Graves County Animal Shelter on Monday evening to find permanent homes in Wisconsin.
The private, nonprofit animal shelter was recently accepted into PetSmart Charities' Rescue Waggin' program, which takes dogs from partnering shelters that have an overabundance of dogs to shelters in areas where there is greater demand for man's best friend.
"It seems like in the South there are a lot of dogs who need homes, and in the North they need dogs," Mayfield-Graves County Animal Shelter board member Belinda Hamlet said.
Hamlet said Monday's group of puppies is the second the shelter has sent with the Rescue Waggin' program, and that the shelter also transports dogs through the Kentucky Humane Society and some Labrador retriever rescue programs.
She said when the Rescue Waggin' vehicle arrived, the nine mixed-breed puppies - four from one litter and five from another - were examined and taken to the PetSmart in Paducah.
The puppies spent the night in the Rescue Waggin' part of the building before setting out for Wisconsin on Tuesday morning.
PetSmart Charities media relations manager Steve Pawlowski said Rescue Waggin' dogs are often kept at the Paducah store building overnight because it serves as a layover location for many of the program's longer trips.
Hamlet said the Mayfield-Graves County puppies were expected to reach their destinations - the Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee and the Bay Area Humane Society in Green Bay, Wis. - by the end of the day Tuesday.
The shelter board member said one of the two litters was found by some local hunters with its mother, who had been hit by a car and killed. The hunters buried the mother and brought the puppies to the shelter.
She said she believes some people found the other puppies and their mother abandoned before they were brought to the Mayfield-Graves County shelter.
Hamlet said she was glad the puppies were expected to reach their destinations - where they are more likely to find loving owners - within one day, because traveling can be tough on dogs.
"It's worth it to get them to a home where they'll be forever," she said.
A Rescue Waggin' vehicle will take dogs and puppies from the Mayfield shelter once a month to other shelters in need of furry friends. Hamlet said the Mayfield shelter can send only puppies for the time being, but will be able to send adult dogs after shelter employees have completed Rescue Waggin' behavior assessment training.
The training will allow the employees to score the dogs' behavior, which is a factor in determining whether other shelters will accept each individual dog.
Hamlet said she expects the Rescue Waggin' relocations to go on as long as the shelter is in compliance with Rescue Waggin' guidelines and as long as the shelter has dogs to send.
She expressed appreciation that the program accepts large-breed dogs.
"It gives us another opportunity to find a home for dogs that might not otherwise be able to find a home ... some places take small dogs and puppies, and this one (Rescue Waggin') will take large ones," she said. "That's a big plus for us."
The shelter also receives a spay/neuter grant from PetSmart Charities, Inc., which is a non-profit animal welfare organization that Pawlowski said is a separate entity from the retail entity, PetSmart, Inc.
Among the goals of the Mayfield-Graves County Animal Shelter is to decrease the number of stray dogs in the area and the number of euthanized animals.
"We think that the grant we have for spaying and neutering dogs in our county will help with that also, so we will have fewer dogs to send," Hamlet said. "So (PetSmart Charities) is helping in two ways."
Contact Leanne Fuller, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.